After serving in Vietnam, Joseph C. Maguire, Jr. returned to a rapidly changing country, more polarized than he had seen in his lifetime. That was also when he decided to write about his own experiences during the war.
Almost fifty years after deciding to write about his tour in Vietnam, Maguire, who is a Dundalk resident as well as an adjunct English professor and staff member at CCBC Dundalk, has self-published his book, “A Contradiction of Terms.”
“I’ve learned that the veterans’ experience is very universal” over the years of fraternizing with other veterans, Maguire, who is a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and was an advisor to CCBC Dundalk’s Student Veterans of America chapter, said at the Eagle office this week.
Throughout the years before the book went to publication, Maguire said he heard perspectives of others who had been through both Vietnam and other conflicts, which helped shaped his view of the complicated, confusing war in which he served as an analyst.
Maguire said each generation has had to confront a foreign war, and return home to sort out “starting life all over again” in similar ways.
“Vietnam had it different because, the world had turned around,” he said.
While Maguire, like others deployed, was himself confused about why he and the U.S. Military were in Vietnam in the first place, he also encountered the camp of people who believed it was for no reason at all, and looked down on his service.
Coming back from war is a lot of “the rough extremes,” he said. He came back to a new family, as he had married his wife, Betty, before leaving for Vietnam.
The book takes a different approach to Vietnam than most by veteran others, as Maguire, who served in the 25th Infantry Division, did not want to repeat any type of “blood and guts” depiction of the war which had already been written about, but rather a story about the complexities of the war and the discourse surrounding it.
“I didn’t want to repeat what other people had written,” Maguire said.
The title, “A Contradiction of Terms,” comes from Maguire’s time as an analyst, where he would be forwarded reports, interrogations or other information that would be often be contradicted soon after.
Much of the book which takes place outside of Vietnam takes place in Dundalk, where Maguire said his earliest memories were.
While growing up, he lived in the Cummins Apartments, now known as Portside Apartments, with his family, as his father was stationed at Fort Holabird.
Although his family moved to West Baltimore, where he attended Mergenthaler High School, Maguire revisited Dundalk several times before going to Fort Holabird himself to take analyst courses in 1969. After the war, he stayed near Fort Holabird with his wife, Betty, until 1973, when he moved back to West Baltimore. But he returned, again, to Dundalk in the 1990s.
“A Contradiction of Terms” is available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon, and some copies are available at the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society.